Saturday, 31 July 2010

Brighton v Aberdeen

The Friendly Fires

Brighton 1-0 Aberdeen (31:07:10)

Almost a year ago to this day, EFW - which is based in Brighton, well Hove actually - packed its drinking boots and headed to Aberdeen. After reading, and eventually writing about their 'Red Ultras' we were hooked. We saw them play Celtic, dashed across the city to see Cove Rangers - just for kicks - then made merry for days in the plethora of brilliant pubs. Mi casa es su casa as they say - now it was time for them to visit us.

Brighton were fresh from a round of friendlies in Portugal. One of them - against Portimonense - was abandoned after a "mass confrontation". Albion's (mad as a box of frogs) gaffer Gus Poyet defended his teams actions. "It was good for team spirit" he said, "they cried at the first sign of an English tackle, just like I did when I first arrived to England" he added clutching at straws.

Albion do have previous in this department. I was in the Republic of Ireland years ago for the 'Battle of Longford'. That friendly was also abandoned after a wayward Charlie Oatway tackle lead to a scene reminiscent of the Benny Hill end credits, with everyone chasing each other around the pitch and eventually into the changing room for another "mass confrontation".

Poor old Aberdeen. Whilst Rangers have been in Australia playing in the Sydney Festival of Football and Celtic off on their usual world tour playing anyone with a buck, The Dons have made do with Tamworth, Port Vale and now Brighton. At least their real fans have travelled for these games and in fairness they do play away in Kaiserslautern next week. Dreamy.

As usual, the Dons fans had travelled in good numbers - 516 to be exact. A round-trip of 1194 miles for a friendly? Pah, peanuts - bring it on pal. There was no sign of the Red Ultras though - they disbanded after multiple hassles with the authorities last season. They have now reformed under another name - Red Army 12 - and have something special planned for SPL opener with Hamilton apparently - welcome back and good luck lads.

So after a few afternoon range finders including a few pints of Old Rosie - weighing in at a sleep inducing 7.2% - we headed off to Withdean Stadium. I won't bang on about that place again (you did enough of that here - Ed.), suffice to say this is the Seagulls last season here, and mercifully, next season they're moving to Falmer - The American Express Community Stadium to be precise. And it looks lovely already.

If Mark McGhee was worried about how he'd be welcomed back to Brighton he needn't have. Memories of that play-off win in Cardiff outweighed the negativity that marked the end of his tenure, and his sojourn across the Withdean pitch was greeted with a standing ovation. He must have felt like a golfer strolling down the 18th at St Andrews. Whilst we're on that subject, golf fans are easily pleased aren't they? They clap absolutely everything.

Mark McGhee milks the applause of the Withdean faithful.

516 Aberdeen fans enjoying the sun-she-ine.

Rebel without a cause.

I'm not too sure how seriously Aberdeen took the match - which the Albion won with a wonder strike from Elliot Bennett. There were reports that they were out in town sinking a few beers the previous afternoon. Not too surprising then that despite fielding their first team, their only shot in the whole game came in the last minute when a Michael Paton volley shaved the post.

On the flip-side, Brighton were pretty impressive. It was one-way traffic in their favour. Oh, and what's not to like about an Argentine winger called 'Baz' who shone out in his bright yellow boots and seemed determined only to attempt to score goals via the scissor kick.

Back at EFW HQ afterwards, fans of both clubs drank, and eventually sang long into the night. There was apparently some fairly serious trouble in town but we're more into giggles and beers than fighting here at EFW.

Aberdeen now move onto Germany then, whereas, for the Seagulls, anything other than relegation this season should ensure that they will be watched by crowds of 20,000+ at the beginning of next season in their new shiny home. Exciting times on the South Coast.

Stairway to heaven?

Argentine Baz in those boots.

New Dons signing Paul Hartley failed to impress on his Dons debut.

For lots more photos CLICK ME.

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Thursday, 29 July 2010

Joel Richards

Argie Bargy

What's a blog called European Football Weekends doing in a country like this? Well, we're a lot more global here at EFW these days but with staff too lazy to change the name. Argentina is going to be the setting for a month long football sojourn for me soon when I set off to celebrate my 40th birthday.

So, who do we dial up when it comes to all things on Argentine football? Joel Richards of course. Joel is a freelance reporter who regularly produces award winning copy for the likes of FourFourTwo magazine and The Guardian. He moved to Buenos Aires to be in the thick of it after a spell in Madrid.

It was good of Joel to give up his time to talk to EFW this week. I say that, but following his stint out at the World Cup he probably had a bit of time on his hands. It's not as if Diego Maradona was going to resign and go a bit bonkers this week was it, oh:

Hi Joel, thanks for talking to EFW. I guess we have to kick off with El Diego. A suitably shambolic ending to a chaotic reign no? It's a pleasure, EFW. I think you're absolutely right about the ending. Maradona being in charge of Argentina has been utter chaos from start to finish. That is in part because of him himself, and he just cant help himself, but it's also because of the way AFA operates. The role of Bilardo, which has only been to destabilise everything from what I can see, was also a major problem. It was destined to fail.

Many Argentineans did not rate his chances with the national side when he took over and they didn't exactly inspire during qualification or at the World Cup. Is he still a national hero in Argentina? One thing that's always struck me about Maradona is not just how people admire him as a player, but how Argentines love him for what he did for the country. I've heard this from lots of different people. That said, very few people thought him becoming coach was a good idea. A better draw against an easier side, against England for example, might have helped in the quarters, but the way they lost to Germany confirmed most people's suspicions about how him being in charge. Lots of Brits suggested it was like gazza being in charge of England. It was actually a mix of Gazza and Keegan.

Will the national team be better off without him and his questionable tactical nous? It's very easy to assume so and we'll soon know. Things will certainly be calmer, but The Copa America is next year which will be very competitive, plus Argentina are hosts so the pressure will be on. It's easy to forget that despite people saying that Marcelo Bielsa is a god, for example, his side went out of 2002 in the group phase. Coaching Argentina is not an easy gig, and it is not just tactical genius that helps coaches succeed.

I'm guessing sales of natty grey suits will nosedive in Buenos Aires? I think they were out of most of us mere mortals' budget in the first place. At least they all looked good when it went pear shaped.

Messi. Not as good a player as Maradona was is he? Ha ha, the best thing about Messi is how long we still have to enjoy watching him. He has a fairly major image problem in Argentina, because of his performances for the national side, which frustrate the average fan, but I'd say it's naive to expect Messi to play as well as at Barcelona for any other club or international side, with the exception of Spain. Brazil 2014 will be huge for him. If he never kicks a ball again he'll already be considered a legend, but he does need a great world cup to be compared to Maradona.

How did the Barra Bravas behave during their paid jollies to South Africa.English hooligans had to hand in their passports, In Argentina, I read that some were even on El Diego's flight over? They behaved pretty badly. You had three sets of barras there. Some were self-financed, some pooled cash via their scandalously formed NGO. Then you had the ones who, they themselves admitted, dealt directly with Bilardo and Maradona. They were the ones on the plane with the squad. It's disgusting, but barras are worse than hooligans as they more institutionalised than hooligans. Some were deported, I saw some just being aggressive and lairy and growling as they wandered around at the World Cup, but it's probably just as well there wasn't an England Argentina. Any excuse...

Rupert Fryer has been in touch with EFW. He wants to know about your encounter with Socrates out in South Africa and also, somewhat mischievously asked about your views on Kirchner? Well the encounter with Socrates never happened. I was supposed to be interviewing the great man but the security guards clearly had no idea who he was, his accreditation wasn't up to scratch and wouldn’t let him into the TV compound… As for Kirchner, I assume he’s referring to Cristina, not Néstor, and I’m not so sure he’s asking about what I think about the policies, so I'm avoiding that one...

Did Argentineans switch their support to Uruguay after were dumped out by Germany.Rightly or wrongly I compare Argentina and Uruguay’s relationship to England and Scotland’s. I think most Argentines wanted the Charruas to do well, even if the were a bit envious. Just as in the analogy, the opposite does not tend to occur.

How will Brazil 2014 differ from South Africa 2010? Will there be a South American feel to it or will FIFA stifle it out in their quest for bland commercialisation across the world?South Africa was such a commercial success that's it's very unlikely that FIFA or the sponsors will change much. Hopefully there'll be less vuvuzelas, and I'm sure that the Brazilian culture and football culture is do strong that it will still come through, how much so depends though...

Argentina are due to host ' Copa America' in 2011. Surely the stadiums there will need a makeover? I do not think many have had a lick of paint since 1978 World Cup. You’ve been listening to Diego, I see. He said the changing rooms at River Plate’s Monumental hadn’t been done up since ’78, which is why the Brazil qualifier ended up in Rosario. Grounds in Argentina are in chronic need of investment, although if its just paint you’re after, the previous River Plate president sold a percentage of three player’s transfer rights to drum up the money to repaint the stadium a few months back.

Argentinos Juniors won the Championship last season. Is the league there more open than Premiership or is it mainly a case of Boca Juniors and River Plate swapping titles.It is one of the most open leagues in the world right now. The last eight tournaments – don’t forget they have two league’s for one ‘normal’ European season – have produced eight different champions. Many think it’s a sign of the lack of real quality in the country, but it keeps things interesting. River and Boca were both dire last year. Its not a good time for the big clubs. To give you an idea, not one of the Big Five qualified for the Libertadores. It’s like Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool not making the Champions League. And not just one of them, all of them.

I read in 'When Saturday Comes', talk of introducing ID card schemes in Argentina. Is this scheme is still on the table and how will it effect football tourists picking up tickets?. Will they have to rely on expensive tour agencies? The idea gained some momentum about a year ago but has gone off the boil. It will no doubt be brought up again soon, and it will almost definitely mean more expensive tickets for tourists. Boca charge the gringos $400 to see the superclásico with River at the Bombonera. That's the upper limit, but a standing ticket to games is around £5, so tourists may be prevented from buying the same tickets as locals.

I've been told that the best way to experience a match for football tourists out there is to buy a local a match ticket and let him/her be your guide for the day. Is that something you've heard of? It’s not something I’ve heard about, but I’m sure locals would be delighted to be given a ticket. Buying tickets and getting into games is pretty straight forward so I’m not sure it’s necessary.

What is the best derby match you've been to in Argentina? The superclásico really is brilliant for the atmosphere, but in the past couple of years they haven’t produced great games, and after half an hour things tend to die down a bit. For tension and atmosphere, lots say the Rosario clásico is a probably the most violent of all. I did go to a very highly-strung huracan- San lorenzo, which was such a potentially dangerous game that one taxi driver refused to take me to the ground. If it's just singing and drums you want, you'll get it at most games.

Does anything else come close? Lots of people consider a Real Madrid – Barcelona game up there, and I've been lucky to see that game both at the Bernabeu and the Camp Nou. They're great, but for different reasons. For atmosphere there are few places that come close to Argentina, in my opinion.

Is it safe to watch football in Argentina? Yes and no. Its probably not a very good idea to go to games waving around lots of money and big cameras. Football related violence and murders are on the up and make lots of headlines, but it has nothing to do with tourists- they are internal wrangles between the barras. Just be sensible about where you go is my advice.

What is the worst trouble you've seen at a match?Unfortunately I have probably become slightly far too used to things that go on at games, so have stopped being surprised by things like the huge brawl and riot which I saw on the final day of last season at Huracan.

Do you still get scantily clad cheerleaders at league games over there?You certainly do, and a thriving wag culture on the back of it. You also have the sight of girls paid by the sponsors to stand behind players in post match interviews, do you have a sweaty player talking about the game, flanked by two buxom Lycra-clad beauties staring at the camera.

EFW will be over in Buenos Aires in 2012 for a few weeks. Aside from the football, what else is there to see? Lots of good museums and galleries, good shopping, lots of over-sized steaks, lots of tango, goods clubs and bars, lots of great wine... I'm sure you'll keep yourself busy.

How did you find yourself in Buenos Aires making a living out of reporting about football? Well I was living in Spain, doing the same thing as i am now, more or less, before coming to a bit of a cross roads. My girlfriend is Argentine, so we basically decided between London and Buenos Aires, and the vote was a clear cut 2-0.

And finally Lukey Moore from the rather splendid Football Ramble has been all over Twitter saying he marked you out of a recent game you played in. Any excuses Mr Richards? I’ve had plenty of opportunities to have to find excuses throughout the course of my playing career... I did actually put us ahead at 2-1 in that game, but also suffered the onslaught of cramp at the same time, which I think is roughly the moment when Mr. Moore decided he would mark me. Say no more.

Follow Joel and EFW on Twitter

Read his work at both FourFourTwo and The Guardian HERE and THERE.

Is that enough plugging? Is it 'eck as like. EFW has done some more gubbins on Argentine football which you MIGHT ENJOY.

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Saturday, 24 July 2010

Canvey Island v FC Twente

Twente/20 Vision

Canvey Island 0-5 FC Twente (24:07:10)

I know, brilliant isn't it? Just to recap that's Canvey Island v FC Twente. The Gulls, or if you prefer, The Islanders play in the 7th tier of English football. That's the Isthmian League Premier Division which isn't quite the same as The Tukkers (Tukkers!) who play in the Dutch Premier League aka The Eredivisie - which they won last season.

Now for the semi-downside. This wasn't the FC Twente first team and Schteve McClaren is no longer their boss. His departure caused huge controversy, incurring the wrath of environmental campaigners when he moved from his solar powered windmill in old Enschede to an enormous new abode in Wolfsburg powered by VW 6-cylinder engines.

This was my first visit to the Brockwell Stadium for 15 years. That visit - for a November FA Cup tie against Brighton - was marred by sporadic outbreaks of toe-to-toe fighting between fans. Fast forward to 2010 and the only fighters in town were Ricky Hatton and David Haye who - along with Iron Maiden and Razorlight - were there to play at charity match for the Indee Rose Trust the following day.

Before the match 'Game a Day' John, Mr Fuller and I supped a pint in the Lobster Smack. The very same pub that featured in Dickens Great Expectations. We leave no cultural stone unturned on these trips and this was, ahem, a classic start to the afternoon. Actually, the only great expectation we had was to sneak in a cheeky visit to Concord Rangers FC which is only a hop, skip and a jump from Canvey Island's ground.

Have you ever been to a stadium when there isn't a match on to try and get in and have a good root around? Chances are if you're reading this then you have. Once you've made the effort to get there, getting in is suddenly the most important thing in your life. Happily, we didn't have to face the indignity of scaling a wall to gain entry as we hit the 'magic door' jackpot early on.

Cliff Larkin is the Concord Rangers' Chairman's Brother-in-law. I know this because Mr Larkin was at the ground doing some pre-season bit and bobs and didn't mind the fact three loons had pitched up for a butchers. He showed us around and purred at the prospect of a local derby because brilliantly - for the first time in years - they're in the same division. Cavney Island v Concord Rangers (December 27) and Concord Rangers v Canvey Island (April 27) were immediately inked into our diaries.

Feeling supersonic. Cliff, Game a day John and Stuart at Concord Rangers.

Van der Twente.

Alright below sea level bloke?

What's not to like?

Craig Johnson eat your heart out. Leon Gordon models the new Predator boot.

I could have stayed for hours but there was a match to attend. Stuart and I were shown to the press entrance to collect our passes. Our names were ticked off on a sheet and then we were escorted back around to the turnstile and told to pay our £8 like everyone else. £8 to see FC Twente at the only ground in England below sea level? I'd have paid thrice that. To celebrate we shelled out another 7 notes for a CIFC scarf to take back to the Lewes FC Clubhouse - which is coming along nicely since you asked.

I'm not generally a fan of pre-season friendlies but standing on the terrace at the Brockwell Stadium in glorious sun-she-ine with perfect cloud formations (give me strength - Ed.) and the Dutch champions in town isn't the worst way to spend an afternoon. Throw in a few pints in the Corner Flag pub coupled with some total football on the pitch and Bob's yer uncle and Fanny's yer aunt.

FC Twente were brilliant. They had the locals clapping in appreciation and nodding their heads with every silky pass. Jules Reimerink gave a faultless display and at one stage, as the Dutch goals were racking up, it looked as though this would turn into a Twente20 match (brilliant - Ed.). Credit to Canvey though, they never gave up and deserved something for their efforts - he said desperately trying not to sound patronising.

Jules Reimerink still gleaming.

Floody hell. Luckily the tide was out.

Wildlife and floodlights *blows out cheeks*

Now then, normally at this juncture I'd be winding up and telling you how we went home via Teddy Sherringham and Anton Ferdinand's house. We did do that but that's another story. Canvey Island is the name of a song by indie rock outfit British Sea Power and they'd played a legendary gig there a few years ago. That song was *pushes glasses up nose* the fifth song on their third album 'Do You Like Rock Music?'. So how about getting Martin Noble from the band to come on EFW and answer a few questions? Three words spring to mind here: Award, winning and blog.

Back off NME. British Sea Power on EFW.

Hi Martin, thanks for talking to EFW. Do you have any memories of that infamous Canvey Island gig at Monico Hall? I remember that show well. That day was really busy. We were up about 5 to get there to film a piece on Canvey Island for 'CountryFile', and then another a piece for 'The Culture Show' Just prior to the gig we got to have a 5-aside match with Canvey Island at the Brockwell Stadium. It made us realise how fit and athletic teams are even in lower divisions. And made us realise how unfit people in bands are. They let us score a few goals, and we all got full Canvey Island kits. We left the ground and only had 30 minutes before stage time. We were knackered and tired and completely sober, so we had half an hour of fast drinking and then on stage - still in our Canvey Island football kits. Wilko Johnson from Dr Feelgood joined us on stage too. I remember jumping on his shoulders and thinking i'd break his back, but Wilko is still as strong as an Ox

What inspired the 'Canvey Island' song? It was inspired by a succession of bits of information reaching Yans brain. In one week he heard stories of the Canvey Island floods on Radio 4, in newspapers and just general conversation, and he wrote it all down and added it to a piece of music we'd recorded.

Are all the lads in the band football fans and who do you all support? Me and Phil are the biggest football fans. I support Bury and Man United, and Phil follows Shrewsbury. Woody and Yan were following the World Cup. Yan made a few bets on Ghana following a witch doctors advice and I made £50. We all support Canvey Island too.

You recorded a World Cup song 'Football (kick it in the goal)' come about? I'm in in a Jonathan Richman covers band with Matt Eaton, Darren Moon, Hamilton (from BSP) and sometimes Marc Beatty (Brakes). We liked having fun musically. Good wholesome vibes only. We got obsessed with Calypso and Matt found a song on Youtube which is a Calypso song about the re-naming of Grenedas airport to "Maurice Bishop International Airport". After sending round bits of music to each other we decided to cobble together a World Cup song. We wanted to poke a little bit of fun at footballers because we're jealous of how much they earn a week, so we pictured them running around the field like Dandys and having bubble baths together. The song doesn't actually mention England.

If it hadn't of been for England exiting on an oily stage against Germany then that would've been a shoe-in for a No.1 right? It should have been No.1 yeah!. We didn't give it radio sheen though, nor did we send it to Radio.

Have the band embraced Twitter or is that just a waste of electricity as John Lydon said last week? BSP have just embraced Twitter, but in a small way. It's easy to knock it. The bits that put lots of people off put me off as well, but it's essentially a way of getting bits of information to people quickly. It's a tool, You can use it in many ways. You can use Nuclear fission in many ways. We don't mention what we had for tea, or our thoughts on jeans and crisps.

And finally, any new material or forthcoming gigs you want to promote? We've just finished a new EP and an Album. The EP will be out this Autumn, and a single off the new album will be out this year too....Album due in January.

It really happened.

For loads more photos from the day CLICK ME or for a professional angle head, check these out from the always brilliant David Bauckham HERE and some equally superb shots from Simon Roe THERE.

The Ball is Round version.

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Thursday, 22 July 2010

Kevin Day

Guess Who's Been on Match of the Day?

Kevin Day has magical powers. It has to be said that EFW isn't the greatest fan of the Premier League, horse racing and moreover Crystal Palace. The fact that Day has taken that trio and turned them into entertainment is a huge feather in a cap already bursting to capacity, and, worthy of 5 (five) FIFA stars.

I must mention at this juncture that I have a 30-year association with Brighton and Hove Albion to declare and that Kevin is a fan of our bitterest and fiercest rivals from Selhurst Park. I've paid good money to watch many of his stand-up comedy performances in the past and had to laugh through gritted teeth at the genius of it all. At the end of the night I would hoist a little white flag and admit: 'he's Palace, but he's alright'.

He's written scripts for Have I Got News For You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and a plethora of other gubbins but at the moment it's probably his appearances on Match of the Day 2 for which he is most famed. I'm contractually obliged to say that MOTD2 is a "light hearted look" at the weekends Premier League action. It's also bloody entertaining and as previously stated - I pretend not to like the E-P-L.

So with a CV as long as your arm, Kevin and I had an awful lot to talk about. And so we did, at length. Up for discussion was Adrian Chiles, Colin Murray, Hanson, Dixon, that James Corden World Cup Live Show, Gabby Logan, the last time he cried, cuddly toy, oh, you get the picture:

Hi Kevin, thanks for talking to EFW, are you looking forward to the new season or have you had your fill of football for a while after the World Cup? I can't wait for the new season! I always imagined that the older I got the less excited I would be but the first day of the new season and FA Cup 3rd round day are as good as Christmas for me. Being a Palace fan, the start of this season is particularly welcome; there were times in May and June when we actually began to believe we would lose our club so the fact that the new season sees us safe and reunited with Selhurst Park is wonderful. My heart goes out to all those Chester fans who can't say the same thing but hopefully the phoenix club will be a huge success. And I genuinely don't understand people who say the World Cup has put them off football, it's like the old joke about oral sex - there is no such thing as a bad World Cup.

You co-wrote James Corden's World Cup Live Show with Phil Kerr didn't you? How did that go? It was an interesting, enjoyable and occasionally frustrating experience. Phil and I didn't actually write the script - that turned up fully formed for every script meeting (it may have been written by elves). What Phil and I did was basically to chip stuff in during the day, suggest lines of enquiry, add some football trivia and keep an eye on the games for unusual or funny events, so we didn't have as much creative input as we would have liked. Mind you we did get to watch games with people like Dizzee Rascal, Andrew Murray and Freddie Flintoff which was an experience.

Actually I think we made, on the whole, a decent show which is no mean feat when you have to make 14 live shows from scratch in a month. It certainly didn't deserve all the critical opprobrium it received; although I agree with hindsight that perhaps we were a bit gung-ho behind England in the first weeks and didn't fully embrace the tournament from a world perspective, notwithstanding our human wall chart. It was odd to work on a show that was getting such a critical kicking but such brilliant viewing figures.

Presumably the MOTD2 editor has got you inked in for a piece with the Blackpool fans travelling to Wigan on the opening day of the Premiership season? I'd like to report that MOTD2 were that efficient! I imagine I will be travelling to Wigan and I hope I am because that's the story. It's wonderful to see a club with such a rich history (and brilliant kit) in the Premiership and it's going to be great spending time with Ian Holloway who is very open and friendly to the media (usually!). I also hope Blackpool make a fist of it because it would be nice to see the media upgrade Holloway from 'patronised' to 'respected'. Having said all that, Newcastle being back is a big story so I could end up following them and people who know more about this sort of thing than I may decide to wait until Blackpool play their first home game.

I can think of worse jobs than working on Match of the Day. Was is a dream come true when you got the nod? Not really, in the sense that I never even dreamed of working on Match of the Day. I still pinch myself now and occasionally get tearful because as a football mad kid it would never even occur to me that I would ever stand on a football pitch let alone on a touchline with a camera as players marched onto the pitch alongside me. The offer came completely out of the blue from the editor of the show who was a fan of my stand up, so I didn't even know the job existed until he 'phoned me. I like to think the fact that he was a Palace season ticket holder had nothing to with it!

Oddly enough if I did dream of being on telly as a kid I would have dreamt of being on 'The Big Match', London's football programme. I really regret never getting to meet Brian Moore. I have been viewing some old episodes for an ITV 4 show I am writing on and it is such a joy to hear his voice again and remember that Sunday lunchtime tingle of excitement. I have been so pleased to discover from people who knew him that he was the nicest man possible.

I don't think there is a better job than MOTD 2 though (well, not in broadcasting anyway. Obviously people who are researching daily into the cure for life threatening diseases have a better job) and the insight and access I get from it are fantastic.

There are two main lessons I have learned: firstly, once you strip away the money and glamour, the atmosphere in a Premiership dressing room is exactly the same as in your Sunday League dressing room. Secondly, English football fans are some of the most articulate, funny and feisty people I have ever met. Trying to conduct an interview with a group of Pompey fans who refused to use the words 'Harry' and 'Redknapp' still makes me laugh now.

You must come home humming the theme tune after a days work there? I do, because many fans serenade me with it constantly. Except the fans who think they must be in trouble if I am there. I am genuinely proud to be associated, even in a small way, with such an iconic programme.

The last time I saw Des Lynam (January 2007, it's in my diary) he was sporting a rather splendid MOTD jacket. Have they issued you with one? Interesting - you have a diary note of the last time you saw Des Lynam do you? I haven't been issued with a Match of the Day 2 jacket, splendid or otherwise, but I'm not ashamed to say I'd wear it. It might also prevent the odd embarrassment like Steve Cram at Sunderland berating me for wearing a black coat with a very fine white stripe. Although, being Sunderland he may just have been berating me for wearing a coat.

One for the diary (L-R) Nick, Danny, Des - in MOTD coat and Binsy.

Adrian Chiles or Colin Murray? Naughty! Adrian will be a very hard act to follow. That nonchalance with which he broadcast took a lot of doing and he was incredibly popular with football fans. I don't mean it's incredible he was popular, I mean he was very popular. I want to make that clear because I got into bother with a Times journalist 'slightly misquoting' me last season and printing that I hated Liverpool.

Colin will be a more than able replacement however. He will have a more obviously enthusiastic approach which may annoy some but he is a very good broadcaster and properly in love with football. As usual, the press will berate him for the first two weeks and then it will be as though Adrian never existed.

Does the MOTD work get in the way of following Crystal Palace? It does, but let's face it, at times recently that has been a blessing. I do occasionally get pangs of guilt but I still see plenty of Palace games and I am proud that fans know I support Palace. In a strange way I think it helps that I support a team that other fans don't feel threatened by, and it gives me a certain credibility to some that I support my local team. Certainly there was one incident at Man City where several journalists were getting a hard time from City fans but I was exempt because I "supported a shit team".

The downside is that most of the journalists know I support Palace and can't wait to give me the bad news at half time. Like the particularly dour Birmingham journalist who said "Cardiff have scored again, that's you down then". It was the only time he smiled all day.

You held your wedding reception at the banqueting suite at Selhurst Park. Your wife [Ali] was all over that idea right? She was actually. We had two wedding receptions, one at Selhurst Park for family and close friends, then one at The Comedy Store for comedy family and close friends. I'm pleased to say Palace did us proud and even got one of the old stains off the carpet beforehand. And obviously, as the season had just finished, they didn't mind that at eleven o'clock that evening there was a mass imaginary kick about on the pitch in front of The Whitehorse.

The reason Ali didn't mind having a reception there was that she knows how important the place is to me. Growing up in a nebulous part of South London in an Anglo-Irish family, Palace gave me a lot of the identity that I craved. Still does. Ali also claims that the first time she knew I must really love her was when I arrived back at Euston at six o'clock in the morning when the special broke down after a midweek game at Blackburn. I drunkenly phoned her up to tell her I was alright and she was very touched, especially as we weren't going out at the time!

The Holmsdale Fanatics have made a bit of a name for themselves with their terrific vocal and visual support haven't they? Strangely enough, they were considered a bit laughable at first. This hardy little bunch with their big Italian style flags seemed to come out of nowhere and looked a bit incongruous in a crowd of 12,000 at Selhurst Park. Now though, everyone loves them. They really help to get the atmosphere going and lift the spirits. At the impromptu demonstration on Bank Holiday Monday at Selhurst Park I was in a crowd of about five hundred sad and angry fans. Then in the distance came the sound of drums and the Ultra's appeared round the corner of Sainbury's at the head of another 500 fans like a medieval army in riot of noise and colour. It was a wonderful emotional sight, and that would be a really romantic story if it didn't have Sainsbury's in it.

Were you at the Sheffield Wednesday game at the end of last season? That must have been both horrendous but ultimately very satisfying? I couldn't get there. It was awful. To celebrate various family near-things with illness and what not we had planned a massive get together not thinking for a minute that administration and near relegation would follow. I decided to do the decent and mature thing and not go (much against Ali's wishes who thought I might ruin the day).

Trouble is after two minutes of watching telly I was so fed up with well meaning people asking me what was happening that I left. I walked a long way to Mitcham Common and walked round and round it for two hours in the pouring rain. There was not a soul there except, and I swear this is true, one elderly man walking his dog who went by me and said: "Wednesday have equalised". Eventually, I got a text from Ali, followed by hundreds of others and I am not ashamed to admit that I stood in the rain and cried.

Do Palace still consider Brighton to be their No.1 rivals? My generation certainly do. I think there are some younger fans who aren't quite as vehement because we rarely get to play them and because Steve Coppell managed there as well, but for me and my mates, the mere mention of Peter Ward and Brian Horton will get us angry. (The feeling is mutual from our side with regards to Jim Cannon, Henry Houghton and don't get me started on Kelvin Morton - Ed.) I did the voice over for the Palace Centenary DVD and at the premier in a packed Fairfield Hall, the first sight of Alan Mullery had the place in uproar. Luckily the director very cleverly added a graphic of cartoon devil's horns growing on his forehead so anger changed to laughter.

It's a strange rivalry because not only is it long distant it's also relatively new. One old chap I met tried to tell me it dated back to gang fights in the '30s but it really only started after a long running cup tie in 1976 when we were both in Division 3. It bemuses most people but the worst football violence I have ever seen was at Palace Brighton games.

That said of course, Brighton fans were very quick to express support when we were in trouble and I had a fantastic night headlining one of their benefits to raise money for the Falmer campaign. Obviously I had to explain a lot of the clever jokes to them.

Do you have any interest in Non-League football? Lewes FC are only just down the road from you and you'd be afforded a very warm welcome there should you choose to pay us a visit. When we were younger, if Palace were too far away, we used to go to Tooting and Mitcham all the time, and I loved it. Our Sunday League team later went onto get a final which was played at Sandy Lane and that was like Wembley to us.

I think non-League teams will benefit more and more as people become disillusioned with the money and hype in the top leagues. At heart, and so many fans tell me this, whether you support Liverpool or Lewes, the important part of the experience is the match itself and the talking the same bollocks to the same people week in week out before the match. Most Liverpool fans choose to talk bollocks in a pub, not the ground, and eventually a lot of people will suss out that they can do the whole bollocks/match experience much more cheaply and enjoyably at a non-League ground.

Lewes have just become a community club. Ultimately, in a season or two we will be owned by the fans who can vote the board in or out. Is that something you'd like to see happen at Palace? I would like to see it happen at every club. I think most right-thinking football fans would. Now I have met so many more fans and realise the experience and expertise they could bring to running a club I am even more convinced of it.

Obviously as you rise up the league it would seem to be more impractical but there is no reason why more clubs shouldn't follow your example. I'm certain Chester City would still be here if the fans had owned the club and I think it's disgraceful and obscene that a club in the country of the Premiership, was allowed to go bust for the sake 0f 57,000 measly bloody quid.

One of the very many things the new owners of Palace are getting right is their relationship with the fans. Simon Jordan concentrated on the corporate income and seemed genuinely confused that 'customers' would want a say in running the business. The new owners have already opened lines of communication, gone onto fans' forums to answer questions and been in contact with the Ultras and other groups to ask for their views. It's a great leap forward, but that's the way it should be.

Football pundits took a bit of a kick to the jubulanis during the World Cup. Are there any that you actually like both professionally and as a viewer? I feel this is one of those answers that should start the way Australian cricketers start: "Aw look mate..." I hardly know Shearer or Hansen but they are always polite. I really like Gary, Lawro is the friendliest bloke you could meet and Lee Dixon is genuinely nice.

One of the problem's for them is, they are on a hiding to nothing when it comes to tactical analysis. If they don't do enough they are accused of treating the viewers like idiots, if they do too much they are accused of being too technical (one letter said a particular piece of analysis had been like having a music expert sitting with you at a concert and taking all the fun out of it by explaining it note by note) and obviously on the Saturday night show they only have an hour or so for eight games.

I genuinely learn things from them, Hansen and Dixon in particular but the master was Gordon Strachan. Watching a game with him was like watching it with a cross between Stephen Hawking and an over-excited 12 year old. His vision and analysis of the game was extraordinary, as was his detailed knowledge of players and his enthusiasm for the game.

He also highlights another problem for pundits: opinions. He managed to voice opinions without necessarily insulting a player, but partly because of fears about losing access to clubs and partly from natural reluctance it is really hard to get the sort of opinion on screen that you will sometimes hear off it.

That's why the immediate reaction to the England Germany game was so unusual, it displayed the anger and disappointment of us all; and fans want to hear the insight and opinion of people who know far more about the game than we do. The other big problem presenters and pundits have is that they don't understand fans' culture like we do. Our passion was their job, they love it and they appreciate it but in a way differently to us - similarly, I very rarely laugh at a comedy show. I will find it funny but I am too busy analysing the technique and second guessing the content to actually laugh.

Most of them were playing seriously at such a young age they didn't have a chance to actually be fans. I really really would love to know what it feels like to score the winning goal in a big match but they reallly really don't want to know what it feels like to have a sixteen hour round trip in a mini van to a midweek away game. Or indeed what it feels like to 'phone a woman you're about to fall in love with at six 0'clock in the morning after Blackburn away.

That's why Adrian is so popular, he understands the parts of a game that a player loves. How many times have you heard a pundit say "this mass brawl is exactly what the game doesn't need" when what the fans are thinking is "why isn't the goalkeeper getting involved in this mass brawl?"

So I do think we could get more from our pundits but in general I think they do a good job, they are exceptionally knowledgable and they do love the game. And the answer to your next question: would I be saying that if I knew for a fact that they wouldn't be reading this? Yes, I would.

Who is the most famous person in your phone-book? Well, I've met Mohammad Ali and George Best and Desert Orchid and I have worked with Kevin Spacey. I suppose Gary Lineker counts as famous does he? (at a push, unless he wants to be interviewed on EFW then he most certainly does, yes - Ed.) To be honest the two people in my phonebook I am most childishly pleased at having are John Motson and Jasper Carrott. Did you notice the way I skilfully dropped Ali, Best, Spacey and Orchid even though I clearly don't have their numbers in my book?

Alan Davies told me that Gabby Logan is deeply attractive in real life. God forbid that EFW would ever stoop so low, so we'll move on shall we. Oh, sod it, is she? Come now. Are we really going to objectify a clever woman and fine broadcaster in 2010? We are? Well, Alan is right. Gabby is deeply attractive. There's a kind of stern innocence about her that is deeply appealing. And it's very easy to make her blush and giggle as well. No, hang on, that's me. She is a very nice person, and, of course, lurking at the back of your mind there's always the whole gymnastics thing...I've got her number in my phone book.

Gabby pictured in GQ Magazine. Nation nods in agreement with Alan Davies.

What is the cheesiest 'Day' related headline you've had in a review? How long have you got? (All day, hehe, did you see what I did there? - Ed). There have been many but as I called my first Edinburgh show 'The Day Trip' I suppose I haven't got much room to complain.
I was particularly fond of one in the BBC in-house magazine which said "Not a Hay-Day" above a story about me being chased by a horse vet at the Cheltenham Festival.

Since you mentioned it - I don't particularly like horse racing but I do make of point of listening to the 5 Live coverage of Cheltenham which you've become an integral part of. Is that the highlight of your sporting calender? I'm really pleased you say that because we get so many people who say they don't like racing but they really enjoy our coverage, hopefully because our enthusiasm and our affection for each other comes across. I'd be reluctant to say that anything non-Palace related was the highlight of my sporting calendar but I really look forward to it. We all stay in the same farmhouse miles from nowhere (although everyone knows I am terrified of the countryside now so there is a lot of teasing) and sitting round the massive table of an evening swapping stories and gossip and getting just drunk enough is a fantastic way of passing the time. I could tell you things about Clare Balding that would make your hair curl.

John Inverdale's enthusiasm comes across in spades at Cheltenham and indeed at the other great sporting occasions he covers. He must be a joy to work with? You know that farmhouse I mentioned? John Inverdale is both alpha male and top dog, once you accept that fact he is an absolute charmer. He is also one of the most under rated broadcasters we have in this country, he never quite gets the credit he deserves. Basically he plants himself on the weighing room steps and for three hours effortlessly deals with anything that comes up while somebody shouts in his ear. He's the same at the golf and at rugby on TV. His secret is, I think, that he would be at those sporting events anyway, as a fan, because he loves them so much but he is never afraid to ask a question that may hurt.

Radio, television work, podcasts, writing, stand up - you've done the Jewson lot. Do you have a preference? Well, I always refer to myself as a stand-up even though I do less of that than anything else. I tend to love the job I am doing at the time but stand-up will always be the most thrilling and rewarding and psychologically damaging; and I love the company of stand-up comedians. My wife is working on shows at the Edinburgh festival and I can't wait to get up there, see some stuff and talk comedy and football long into the night.
To be honest, I'm delighted I've had the chance to do so many things but I wonder if I am spreading myself too thin - I'm finding writing funny things for other people to say a bit frustrating at the moment, I think I need to start writing a new show for myself.

Probably my favourite job at the moment is the podcast I do with Mark Chapman, Graham Poll and Roy Meredith from Championship Manager. It really is four people talking about football but a lot of people listen, and I'm sure you get the same childlike excitement from having readers all over the world that we do about having listeners from all over the world. One of our World Cup competition winners was from Guatemala. Mind you they don't just listen, they challenge, it really helps make sure you don't have a too parochial perspective on football.

Chappers, Meredith, Poll and Day in the pod.

Do you listen to any other football podcasts? I am a bit superstitious about listening to other podcasts since I started mine. I'd rather we did what we did rather than influencing ours even sub-conciously. Which is a bit pointless because Roy seems to listen to all of them.

And do you get time to follow any football blogs? I worked for a year on the ill fated Fanbanta Football Website in 2007 and first became award of football blogs then. To be honest, it's only through doing the podcast and the recommendations of the wonderful Roy Meredith that I am beginning to discover them properly, among many, yours of course and a chap who blogs under the name Hartch, and for me, the discovery has been fantastic.

I have a terribly romantic view of football. I think it's a vitally important part of the identity of a community and it's a massive part of the culture of this island. I got really cross hearing Mark Kermode describe culture as "everything except football".

I like Mark, and I love theatre and cinema, books and music; but football is equally as important as they are. I love football for the sentiment, the nostalgia, the friendship, the camaraderie, the songs and the kits. I learnt about geography and history through football, about Crooked Spires and Chairboys and Young Boys Berne. Football fans are as passionate and articulate about the game as opera lovers are about the music, more so probably. On a cold Wednesday night in Norwich the latest French film noir will be watched in a tiny cinema by Mark Kermode and three other people, down the road 25,000 people will be watching their football team.
Football matters, and the point I meant to make at the start of that rant is that increasingly it is in blogs rather than newspapers that I find the quality of writing that does it justice. Hartch wrote a piece recently about Paul Gascoigne that would bring tears to the eyes of a statue.

Do you have a favourite ground? Yes, I do. It's called Selhurst Park. I always like going to Portsmouth because it's ludicrously 'proper' and I quite like the Emirates because as a kid dreaming of going to football on a jetpack in the future the Emirates is kind of how it looked.
To be honest, I like visiting any ground where there is a clear reminder of the club's heritage, but the short answer is: Selhurst Park.

Do you know how many you've been to? Are you allowed to count new grounds twice? (can of worms, don't go there - Ed.) If the answer is no then only counting grounds that I have seen Palace play at then I have been to 68 grounds. I am aware that for you and many of your readers that is a pathetic number, but I have been to those 68 grounds a lot of times.
One thing I haven't done is seen nearly enough football abroad and that is something we intend to rectify with some podcast weekends away.

Twitter. Hideous waste of time or great way to spend five minutes on the bog? I haven't worked out how to do it on a mobile yet and I can't take the PC to the mobile. The BBC made me sign up for my penultimate piece last season and I did so kicking and screaming. I have to admit however that I have really taken to it. I'm terrified by the tyranny of having to think of funny things to say but I have discovered some really nice people, some very interesting facts and a lot of brilliant websites because of it. I have 1,500 followers at the moment which is ahead of Poll and Meredith but way behind Chapman. Not that it matters of course. My twitter address is @kevinhunterday Not that it matters, as I say.

That's it Kevin, thanks again for taking the time to talk to us and keep up the very good work old chap. Mate it was my pleasure. Sorry if I banged on a bit.

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Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Sean Ingle

Ingle all the way

Sit up straight, arms folded, behave yourself and no talking at the back. We've only got the's Sports Editor (Editor!) on the line. Sean Ingle, for it is he, has been doing that job for six years, been working there for ten and, furthermore, he's bloody good at it.

You'll know by now that I keep going back to the well marked 'Guardian' for these interviews. That's because to my mind, nobody comes close to matching their output. Factor in the Football Weekly podcast and The Fiver and it not only enriches our knowledge and enjoyment of football - it makes us chortle along the way. What's not to like in that?

If you're aware of a better career progression than Sean's - starting with working for Motor Cycle News, Fore! and Total Sport before becoming Guardian Sports Editor and sitting in on Maradona press conferences at World Cup finals - then drop us a line. Anyway, enough of me for now, aside from some mandatory poor questioning, it'll be Ingle all the way:

Hi Sean, thanks for talking to EFW. Are you looking forward to the new season or do you need a long break after the World Cup? No worries – I am a big fan of the site. When I was younger I travelled as a punter to Milan, Prague, Rome and Madrid to watch games with mates so I know where you’re coming from. We’d always book the most ridiculously cheap and early flight, usually from Stansted, sleep three to a room, walk around a city till our feet were red-raw and blistered and take in a match, on the terraces if possible. Sound familiar? Being pelted with coins and bottles by away fans while watching the likes of Zidane, Nedved and many greats as Lazio took on Juventus in 2001 was one of many, many highlights - and it’s not every day you’re flashed while walking back from the San Siro with Sid Lowe after watching Milan v Juve … but that’s another story for another day.

Regarding the break, I personally think that the one good idea Sepp Blatter has ever had is a global calendar with one month off every year – and I certainly wouldn’t mind a bit more of a break before the new season. This piece written in 2006, sums up how I feel: “Football has become a year-round fandango, the baton passed from one season to the next with the blurring speed of a sprint relay … Football in the summer months used to be anonymous. Players would run hills and shed pounds, amble through a few low-key friendlies and then the season would start. TV companies were rarely interested in pre-season matches. When ITV started showing the Makita International in the late 1980s it was an exotic curiosity, like Andy Cole in an Arsenal shirt … [But] there are better things to do in July. Enjoy the summer sports, go to the seaside, become reacquainted with your family - anything. Because it is only when you are deprived of something you love - and, yes, that includes football - that you truly miss it.”

What was your World Cup highlight both on and off the park? The best game I saw in the flesh was Uruguay v Ghana, although I was also fortunate enough to be at Slovenia v USA, Spain v Chile and Cameroon v Denmark. Of the 13 games I went to, there were only two absolute stinkers – Slovenia v Algeria and Paraguay v Japan – so I was pretty lucky. An off-the-park highlight is trickier, because I only had one day off in four weeks and my routine was basically get up, live blog for a few hours, drive to a press conference/write a preview piece for the paper, report on a match, bed, and repeat. So, from a small list, it’d either be the giddy exuberance in South Africa when Bafana Bafana drew their opening game or visiting the Apartheid museum.

You had a few problems finding your seat at a couple of matches which caused a bit of amusement back here. Was the tournament well organised or organised chaos for the media? Apart from two incidents in Pretoria – being assigned a seat No13 that didn’t exist (there was a 12 and a 14 but no 13!) and being given a ticket in row of seats that just weren’t there – everything went fairly smoothly. The media are spoilt at World Cups: there are TVs on every desk that show highlights and live stats, wi-fi to research and file, and you even get free bottles of water when its hot, so we can’t complain. But reporting from games is generally much easier than it was when I started out. For evening games back in the day reporters had to phone copytakers - always lovely Northern ladies - before the match with teams and formations, at half-time with half the copy, on 70 minutes with another chunk of text and on 85 minutes with the top and tail. It wasn't easy doing it from places like Millwall when you could hardly make yourself heard over the din - and it was a nightmare when nothing happened before half-time and then there were lots of late goals.

So how long after a match are you expected to have your report online? We have to file on, or sometimes just before, the final whistle, which is fine for match reports but sometimes trickier for blogs/sidebar pieces when an obvious subject doesn’t suggest itself in the first half. There were a couple of times when I had 400 words still to write with 20 minutes to go and experienced mild panic - until several shots of adrenaline kicked in and everything was suddenly all right. I should also mention that we get an hour after the final whistle for a rewrite, which allows us to bring in managers’ quotes and – hopefully – add a little finesse to the prose.

Move over Paul the octopus, you were the real star of the World Cup predictions weren't you? I did pretty well tipping Spain to beat Holland in the final, England to be knocked out in the second round, Uruguay to do better than everyone expected, David Villa to be top scorer, and the lack of technology ruining a couple of big games. But while watching a lot of world football certainly helped realistically assess most teams' chances, I’m not kidding myself: there was a lot of luck involved too.

A lot of the television pundits took a critical kick to the jubulanis. Would you like to exchange your laptop for a place on the Match of the Day sofa? No. Anyone who has seen my infrequent appearances on TV would agree that it’s best that I stick to editing, writing, and occasionally podcasting on Football Weekly.

A recent report in the New York Times suggested online journalists are facing an early burnout becoming frantic and fatigued at the fast moving nature of new media. How is your health old chap? I was a bit frazzled after the World Cup, but that was only to be expected after so many 12-16 hour days. And it's the World Cup so you've got to give it everything. But journalism is changing: there are very few 'paper' and 'online' journalists at the Guardian any more - most people work for whatever platform needs them. That clearly brings certain challenges, but the Guardian is very conscientious about paying back lieu days and making sure its staff get adequate time off. And it is certainly sounds a nicer place to work than some other publications I know of, where 9am-9pm shifts can be the norm.

Do you have time to read any football blogs? I read several regularly - including yours, Zonal Marking, Arseblog etc - as well as popular club message boards.

The Football Weekly Podcast is an absolute gem. Do you get time to listen to your competition; Football Ramble, Game Podcast, Two Footed Tackle, The Real FA Cup etc and indeed etc? Not as much as I probably should. I usually listen to Football Ramble and the Game podcast most weeks but that’s about it.

Nailing our colours to the mast, we belong to Jimbo here at EFW. Do you? James Richardson is brilliant. He’s knowledgeable, funny, stiletto-heel sharp - and, just as importantly, he’s just like that off screen too. I’m amazed that a mainstream broadcaster isn’t paying him gazillions to front their football coverage. I've heard it said he's too highbrow for the mainstream but that's surely ridiculous. Do we really want to live in a world where presenters and pundits trade cliches and monosyllables?

I couldn't agree more. Anyway, hang on a minute - what's all this about a 'Pirate Shop' in Kings Cross that you visit? Is that Glendenning on the wind up or is there something you should be telling us? Barry is definitely winding you up there. What else did he tell you?!

Erm....*thinking quickly* I hear you're actually quite a handy player yourself? I was decentish when I was a kid. I played in goal for my county from U13 to U19 level and had trials with a couple of league clubs, but ultimately I just wasn’t good enough.

With respect to, ahem, Motor Cycle News, you must be happier covering football nowadays. Do you follow any other sports? I hated living in Kettering and knew nothing about motorbikes, but I learned a hell of a lot at Motor Cycle News. Several of the staff were 30-something blokes who had worked on national newspapers, and so standards were high. I could have done without being ridden around the outskirts of Kettering on a Honda Super Blackbird at 155mph as part of my initiation, mind. As for other sports, I follow pretty much all of them – particularly boxing, tennis and darts – although F1 does nothing for me.

As we speak you're approaching 10,000 Twitter followers - incidentally, you have 100 more than Barry Glendenning - is the Guardian office a competitive place or do you pretend you're not too bothered by it all? Is it that many? I use TweetDeck so it’s not immediately apparent. Let me check on now. Ah, you're spoofing me - it's not even 9,000! I can honestly say that Barry and I have never discussed our number of Twitter followers. Our betting success, or lack of, come Monday morning on the other hand ...

Should we pay to read your online work on The Guardian website? 'Should we pay' is less important than 'Will people pay'. Because the evidence so far suggests they won't, unless it's specialised content. I'm not ideologically opposed to the Times' paywall. It's just a practical thing: people have got used to getting content for free and I can't see that changing any time soon. So, we're left with the billion dollar question: can newspaper websites sites make enough in online advertising and sponsorship to cover the decline in paper sales and classified ads? That's the road the Guardian has gone down and, for the sake of all of us in the industry, I hope it works. If not, my fear is that there may not be a right way; and that all roads - paywall, free, whatever - will lead to the same ending. Death.

Philosophically I agree with David Mitchell's recent piece in The Observer that "we have to find a way of continuing to pay journalists and editors for professionally produced content". Because without adequate recompense, how does David Leigh have the time to expose Jonathan Aitken's lies? How can David Conn afford to spend days digging through a football club's accounts to expose wrongdoing? And Jonathan Wilson, good though he is, would not know nearly as much about football tactics if he hadn't spent years interviewing the likes of Arrigo Saachi and other top coaches across Europe. Good journalism usually costs.

That's it Sean, thanks again for your time and keep up the splendid work old chap. No worries. But I'm surely not that old - I have a couple of years on Barry Glendenning, Rafa Honigstein and James Richardson!

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You can also read Sean's rather splendid work HERE.

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Sunday, 18 July 2010

Raphael Honigstein

Rafa the gaffer

Anglo-German relations are extremely healthy here at European Football Weekends. Germany is unquestionably our favourite country for watching football and we've made scores of friends on our many travels there. Now, to further cement that relationship, ta da....Raphael Honigstein has agreed to be the latest star name to talk to us *punches air with delight*.

Honigstein writes about German football here in England and about English football for the German media. His work can be found in The Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 11 Freunde (influential magazine in the style of WSC) and he not only appears on the fabulous Football Weekly podcast but is also the go to man for German football news for Sky and Setanta.

Mentioning no names *cough* Alan Shearer *splutter* Alan Green, football is awash with awful pundits. You don't have too delve to deep to find quality elsewhere though. Rafa certainly slips into the quality bracket, he's one cool cat and, that's why we're delighted he agreed to speak to EFW:

Hi Raphael, thanks for talking to EFW, how did you enjoy your time in South Africa? I enjoyed the people (incredibly nice and helpful), the food, a bit of Texas Hold'Em, the stadiums, Cape Town and Durban and most of the football. Didn't enjoy driving past certified "hijacking hot-spots" on a daily basis, lack of street life, cold evenings and slight sense of isolation.

What was your favourite moment both on and off the pitch? Favourite moment on the pitch was Germany v Argentina. Off the pitch: BBQ in Durban on the eve of Spain v Germany in a beautiful setting.

Sounds splendid, did you learn anything new from this World Cup? Hard pitches, weird ball and altitude make bad teams even worse. Tactical formations expressed solely by numbers are meaningless. Japan can play a bit. England are still England under Capello.

There were expecting 2m fans from overseas but in reality around 400,000 turned up. Did you notice a different class of fan at the tournament? Affluent rather than passionate maybe? I think the real affluent ones stayed away, that's why there were lots of empty corporate boxes everywhere. I mostly saw South American fans where I was based (Pretoria) but most of the time, you didn't really see any fans at all because they had nowhere to go apart from the stadiums on match day.

Did you experience a game at any of the fan parks? I've heard that they were largely empty. I drove past the one in Sandton (Johannesburg) before the final - 90 per cent empty. The South Africans didn't really see the point of standing in front of a screen in the freezing cold, apparently, unless SA or Ghana were playing.

Talking of the locals, they were priced out of attending and there were empty seats at every game more or less. FIFA will have learned a few harsh lessons from this right? I'm not sure they're too bothered. It's all about TV. A few hundred empty seats don't make any difference to them. I'm also not quite sure that cheaper tickets would have made that much of a difference. The locals were very proud that the World Cup was there but their interest to see Slovakia v Paraguay live was strictly limited, I felt.

Germany returned from the tournament as both likeable and popular. Who'd have thought? I had a feeling that they would play in a more open, entertaining style but wasn't quite sure if they could do it successfully. The rapid progress of the team has surprised me along with everybody else, including the players and managers as well, probably.

It's a shame they were Müller lite (sic) in the semi final though eh? Big shame. And for such a minor offence. The ref in the Argentina game was actually very lenient, a fact that made Müller's yellow even harsher. He would have made a difference, for sure. But the real problem, if you want to talk individuals, was that Mesut Özil had nothing left in the tank against Spain. He was a virtual passenger. I also think that Löw got the "Trochowski instead of Kroos" bit wrong.

Who is the bigger star in Germany post World Cup: Thomas Müller or that bloody octopus? Müller. Paul the octopus will retire now but Müller could have three (THREE!) more World Cups ahead of him. Frightening.

If Frank Lampard's 'goal' had been awarded in the Germany match, England would have gone on to win the game and the tournament. Agreed? No. I agree that they would have had momentum and that the game could well have finished differently. Where England really went wrong wasn't Bloemfontein but in the group stage. One shitty little more goal in any of the three games, and they would have muddled through to the semi-final at least, past Ghana and Uruguay. I honestly believe that. But perhaps it's better for English football in the long run to have failed in this manner rather than to celebrate another false 1990 dawn.

Our 'root and branch' reform after not qualifying for Euro 2008 was to blow £6m a year on a foreign manager. Germany promoted from within for a fraction of the price. And he's wears nice clothes. England really are a sorry state compared to Germany no? I wouldn't go that far. The main problem is the adversarial nature of English football and culture on a whole - it's all about fighting it out. It's club vs country and the media against everyone. There's very little taste for compromising and doing things for the greater good. The FA alone can't change too much unless clubs are willing to do their bit, too. Apart from that, it's obvious that England needs more qualified coaches. They have about a tenth of the numbers that Spain and Germany have. Not good.

EFW is no Zonal Marking. We don't have a clue about tactics. That said, even we know that Chile did well with their 3-3-1-3 formation and Spain's two (two!) holding midfielders squeezed the life out of other teams. Is it the case that everybody - Maradonna aside - is so tactically aware now that games cancel themselves out and are becoming *ahem* a bit boring? I'd say that most teams are now fit and tactically astute enough to make life difficult for most teams. Those who practise attacking moves extensively and/or play with a fully functioning team of good to very good individuals will still find a way , generally. It might just take a bit longer.

Even though Germany did well, most fans there would rather see their team win the league than the national team win the World Cup presumably? I'm not sure that's true, I guess it very much depends on the teams involved. If you asked a Bayern fan, another championship means little. For 1860 supporters though....

Did you return to England with a couple of souvenir vuvuzelas and some oversized comedy spectacles? Certainly not. I was flirting with the idea of bringing home a zebra hide but then thought my two little girls would probably cry. Was not sure about HM Customs' position on this, either.

Do you prefer covering English football in German or German football in English? I really like both but not at the same time, preferably. England v Germany at the World Cup was a little bit hectic.

A lot of fans I know have turned their back on the Premier League and now watch their football abroad in Germany. Can you get your head around that? Of course. Bratwurst, beer, terraces, cheap tickets... what's not to like? (Oi, that's our catchphrase - Ed.) It certainly makes for a very good "second" league.

What do you think is the main difference in fan culture between the English and Germans? I'd say the similarities are bigger than the differences but the whole Ultra thing is getting quite strong in the Bundesliga, with choreography, constant singing etc. Also gentrification and the crowds getting older is less of an issue.

In light of the fans ownership and history of German football, what's your view on the enormous debts English clubs have saddled themselves with? We've had plenty of clubs in Germany who nearly went bust as well over the years. What we don't have are leveraged buyouts, the worst possible thing that can happen to any club. That should never be allowed. Stadium debt and (merely theoretical) debt to sugar daddies is less problematic in my view.

Do you watch any English and German football other than the Bundesliga or Premiership? You're always welcome at Lewes FC you know! Thank you for the kind offer. I used to watch the championship (old division one) on the telly when I was at uni, that was a great way to wake up on Sundays. Now it's strictly Buli and PL.

Which teams do you actually support? Germany, naturally. I've never hidden my club affiliation too much but wouldn't like to repeat it here for fear of losing the last smidgen of my journalistic credibility. I can confirm that I have no team in England though. I like/dislike them all the same. Honestly.

We are unapologetically obsessed with football grounds at EFW. Do you know how many you've been to and futhermore what are you favourite stadiums? No idea about numbers, actually. I'd guess about 100? My favourites - in no particular order - are: Old Trafford, Westfalenstadion, St James' Park, Cape Town, Durban, Soccer City, Bernabeu, Estadio da Luz, Allianz Arena, Anfield (on CL nights), San Siro, Craven Cottage, St Jakobs Park.

Do you just go where you're sent by editors to football or do you often attend matches just for the fun of it? I'm mostly able to chose the games I go to, or they're kind of the obvious ones, like Man Utd v Bayern at Old Trafford. I very rarely go without the need to report though.

How much football do you watch a week? If it's a CL week, it can be easily ten full games. Mostly on the box.

Who is the most famous person in your phonebook? Mila Jovovich. I also have Evil Knievel's number somewhere but he's sadly passed away.

Is it difficult to extract award winning copy out of mundane footballers press conferences? Award-winning copy? What award was that? (Oh sorry, that was us, silly me - Ed.) Press conferences are mostly useless, of course, unless Mourinho's in town or JT gets the hump. I'm lucky because I don't have to churn out previews and match reports on a weekly basis but can often concentrate on wider themes instead.

Have you had a run in with any footballers? Jens Lehmann was once not very nice to me, but I think he confused me with a colleague at the time. The rest of them have been well behaved. Or simply oblivious.

Always the ones you least expect. Talking of run-ins. What was it like to be patronised by Nicky Campbell live on national radio? I didn't take any offence and didn't feel patronised. He obviously didn't know me so there was no "intent". It did throw me a bit, however. "When did you move to England?" was the one question I wasn't prepared for.

Twitter. Useful journalistic tool or hideous time waster? Hideous journalistic tool and useful time waster. And very addictive.

That's it Raphael. Thanks once more for taking the time to talk to EFW and keep up the very good work old chap.. Thank you, Danny. You too, matey.

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